Entertainment TV Q&A: John Hewson calls for broad referendum to solve citizenship, Indigenous recognition and republic

Q&A: John Hewson calls for broad referendum to solve citizenship, Indigenous recognition and republic

Q&A John Hewson
John Hewson calls for broad referendum to solve citizenship, Indigenous recognition and republic Photo: ABC
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Former Liberal Party leader John Hewson has called for a multi-question referendum dealing with dual-citizenship, formal recognition of Indigenous Australians and the republic to put an end to partisan disputes over constitutional issues.

On a Q&A episode which touched on the Barnaby Joyce affair, Senator Jim Molan’s sharing of Britain First videos, reform of corporate taxation and the ABC, the panellists also offered ideas about ways to end the citizenship dramas which have plagued both sides of Parliament.

Section 44 of the constitution prohibits members of either house from having dual-citizenship with another country and an eligibility crisis in the last six months has cost eight politicians their jobs, sparked two by-elections and seen more fall under the spotlight.

In response to a question by Robert Sutherland, a judge in the New South Wales District Court, Mr Hewson said a referendum which asked the Australian public multiple questions would be a way to end the political point-scoring on the issues.

“I don’t do minimal, I would have a broad-based reform agenda on the constitution, a bipartisan agenda and raise issues like the proper recognition of First Australians, the republic,” Mr Hewson said.

“Let’s do it once and for all and do it properly.”

On course for a referendum

Fellow panellist Linda Reynolds, the senator in charge of a bi-partisan Joint Standing Committee of Electoral Matters, said a referendum was shaping up to be the only way to deal with the dual-citizenship issue.

“We’ve heard from many of Robert’s (Judge Sutherland) colleagues, many constitutional experts and not a single one of them has said that there is any other way bar taking it back to the Australian people for you to decide what you think is current and relevant today,” Senator Reynolds said.

“Now in this case the law is 118-years-old and it may be a bit of an arse in the current circumstances but ultimately the committee will share with Australians what the issues are and we will have to have a national debate.”

Senator Reynolds said other section 44 issues the bi-partisan committee was investigating were the forced resignation of public sector workers when elected and the difficulties faced by people who were adopted, from the Stolen Generation or had family who had fled war in satisfying the constitution.

The Australian political commentator Chris Kenny said he preferred not to change section 44, saying it was not too much to ask that politicians are loyal to the country.

Too many questions at once will fail: Kenny

Mr Kenny also argued that the wide-ranging question would not be appropriate given how few have successfully passed in Australian history, with only eight of 44 national referendums carrying.

“The more issues in the bundle, the more debate, the more cross pollination of arguments and the less likely it will be to succeed,” he said.

“I think they’re all worthy issues, we did the republic once before, we had a complete failure when it comes to Indigenous recognition.

“But they’ve got to be picked up one at a time.”

Guardian Australia columnist Van Badham was in favour of Mr Hewson’s multi-question referendum, and said dual-citizenship didn’t create disloyalty.

“I love being a dual citizen,” she said.

“My father died a few years ago and was born in New Zealand. That means continuing the link to my dad and the community he came from.

“That doesn’t make me disloyal — I love this country, I live here, I pay tax here.”

Ms Badham said she had faith that the Australian people could answer more than one question at a time.